It’s time to write about it! Then maybe I can think about writing something else. You know, something to do with fashion, the shop or my little town.
Just over 3 years ago in late November 2019 I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Cancer! After discovering a lump on the side of my neck I patiently waited for tonsilitis to get me. The last time I had it was in the year 2000, I remember this because Sydney had the Olympics and I spent those 2 weeks laying on the lounge sick watching the games.
Tonsilitis did not come. I ‘doctor googled’ of course. Hmmm…swollen glands! I’m dehydrated. I must drink more water. 2 weeks later after drinking almost nothing but water, the lumps were still there. I was seeing a chiropractor at the time for wrist pain, and she asked me if there was anything that was worrying me. Beside my wrist and hand pain I told her about the lumps. Lucky for me she told me not to come back and see her until I had been to my doctor. OK then! And off I went.
My doctor was amazing, she knew something was wrong. I still wasn’t worried, again like other times before, when seeing the doctor, I thought it would turn out to be nothing. After a whirlwind of appointments for biopsy’s and what seemed like an unhealthy number of scans, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 B cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. All good. B Cell. If you’re going to get cancer, better for it to B Cell, right? This was told to me by so many people. Would this make me feel better? Definitely not!
Step 1. Night one. Cry myself to semi sleep on a mattress on the loungeroom floor with my puppy dog curled up beside me. Said puppy dog could only handle around 3 hours of my sobbing. She finds another place to sleep.
Step 2. Find a hematologist. I did, she’s amazing. Chemotherapy (RCHOP) already booked in before I even turned up for my first appointment. It’s one week later. 23rd of December. 8 hours of Chemo and immunotherapy. All up 10 hours of sitting in a chair with the information of how it all plays out (I will lose my hair – thats all I hear), pill taking, bloods taken and an IV filling my body with chemicals that scare the shit out of me.
Steroids! WTF is up with those! I must take them for five days after each treatment. You know what that means? Five days of being awake. I mean no sleep – at all. Thank goodness for Netflix! I soon run out of things to watch.
A night I will never forget. Shortly after my 2nd round of treatment (I’m bald now) I experience the worst night of my life. Three days after each treatment I had to inject myself in the stomach (can’t remember what – or what for!) this is all a part of RCHOP. The bone crunching started early in the afternoon, with added lower back pain making me feel like I may have slipped a disc. By dinner time more bones were starting to crunch. When I say crunch, I mean it felt like my bones were rubbing together and that they all had rough edges, crunching and grinding. By 2 am I was screaming in pain. I could not lie down, I could not stand up, I could not sit. I was broken, completely.
After what seemed like an eternity of screaming and crying and the wonderful husband trying to fix it (he can’t), the ambulance comes. The green whistle is handed to me. It hurts to breath it in. With every inhale my rib cage grinds and crunches. They inject me with morphine (?) as many times as they are allowed and I’m getting a go at a second whistle. Still no relief. Arrive at the hospital still screaming and wreathing in pain. I’m not real sure after that. More pain killers I believe. I fall asleep finally.
The morning is here, and it is over. Back to the hematologist.
Well, that must be the O in the RCHOP! What ever the hell that means. We won’t take the O. This is the self-injecting ‘whatever’. So if it is not necessary for me to take as part of my treatment. Why the hell am I taking it? Who knows and I’m to tired to find out why.
After round 4 of treatment, I am in remission, I have never felt luckier, I know that not everyone is as fortunate as me. It is now February 2020 and I can tell you I have never been happier for some news. I go back for Round 5 but what used to be whispers of COVID are now being yelled at us from the TV and I am frightened. My immune system is very low due to Chemo so I think I’m going to die if I get it! I say no to my 6th and final round of Chemo. I don’t want to go anywhere near a hospital.
And here we are. Time to change our lives. This is one part of why we ended up in Tea Gardens and me buying Vitamin Bead. Now Bohemian Spirit (if facebook would only let me change the name – any tips would be greatly appreciated lol). The kids are grown up and doing their own thing. Time to leave Sydney and slow down. To stop taking life for granted, to treat ourselves after all our years of hard work. Of course, a boutique could be hard work, but not when you love it.
Two years later the decision is made, we start to organise putting the house on the market.
I’m scrolling through Facebook and come past a post of a ‘business for sale’ on the Tea Gardens community Facebook page. I have been into that shop so many times. I thought the universe was telling me something. I buy it. 2 months later the house is sold. Three weeks after that, I’ve moved and running Vitamin Bead.
Three years in remission next month and loving life in our pretty little town. Of course, in the back of my mind I am concerned that it will come back (one of the first things I was told when I was diagnosed was that you get it twice) but I can’t live like that, to the back of the mind it has to stay.
Buying the boutique has been a life changing experience, I would never have thought that I could love a job so much. The wonderful customers that I meet every day, whether they are holidaying or locals. I have had hour long conversations with a few (hi Janine), I’ve cried and sympathised with customers over ill health or the loss of a loved one. Some locals call in just to say HI! Some come for a cup of tea and a chat.
I love being a part of a small town, a community, full of friendly faces. People you run into every day. From the wonderful people in the bakery where I grab a coffee every morning to the happy people out for a walk. And let’s not forget our best friends. The 4-legged kind. Dogs are very welcome inside the shop, so if you ever happen to be on holiday with your best friend in our little town, make sure you call in for a chat. I’d love to meet you and your best friend.
PS. I'm not brave enough to post a photo of me when I lost my hair - so you'll have put up with a photo I've used before. Me and the best friend who couldn't handle my sobbing. I forgive her. She wasn't even two then.